The Case for Having Both Parents Work

Reuters columnist Linda Stern says that middle-income parents usually struggle with the idea of having both parents work, because one salary (usually the mother’s) is often dedicated solely to paying for childcare:

If she earns $50,000, they are left with $28,500 from which to pay for childcare (deduct an average of $11,666 a year, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies), commuting and all of the other costs of holding a job, from business attire to buying colleagues’ kids’ wrapping paper at fundraising time.

It’s no wonder that a random bad day will trigger the quit response in struggling parents. Someone gets sent home from school sick, a playdate is missed, the family is frenzied and at least one of the parents feels out of control. “I’m bringing home $200 a week for this?” comes the question that often results in the family downsizing to one income.

But Stern points out that there is a very good argument for having both parents work, one of which has to do with “the four Ds”: disability, death, downturns, and divorce (recall the story of Adina Jones in the L.A. Times).

“A woman’s ability to earn a decent salary is the most comprehensive insurance policy she can have,” two advisors recently wrote in the latest issue of the Journal of Financial Planning.

In addition, once the kids grow up, the parent at home sometimes has a desire to get back into the workforce, and it’s tougher to do if she or he has been out of the job market for a few years. Stern’s advice: “To overcome that, stay in your career, even if you don’t have a full-time job.”

Photo: Mike Babiarz



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